Long beloved as one of the most exciting and fan-friendly fighters in WEC history, Miguel “Angel” Torres made his anticipated UFC debut tonight at UFC 126.
Facing off against Chuck Liddell protégé/training partner/personal assistant (according to Mike Goldberg) Antonio Banuelos, Torres stuck to a disciplined, measured game plan of jabs, distance, footwork and quick movement. He took a page out of training partner Georges St-Pierre’s playbook and used a stiff jab to control an opponent from bell to bell.
And the whole time, the Las Vegas crowd booed him out of the building.
It was a shocking to hear a crowd boo a Miguel Torres fight. Time after time, the scrappy Chicago native could be counted on to steal the show in the WEC—not exactly an easy feat.
Even in defeat, “Angel” was gutsy, tough and all action. His blood and guts style won fans over to his side as much as his humorous personality and P4P accomplishments.
And yet, as his hand was raised after a shutout unanimous decision victory, the crowd showered the former WEC bantamweight champion with boos.
That’s because the usual rabid, go-for-broke Torres was nowhere to be seen. Against Banuelos, a fighter who stands all of 5'3" and brings new meaning to the phrase “T-Rex arms,” Torres opted to take the safe route.
Jab and move.
Keep out of range.
Throw pattering strikes and don’t get tagged with anything.
In other words, get a "W" in your UFC debut any damn way you can.
In my opinion, you can’t fault Torres for taking the safest route to victory. It has been mentioned over and over in the lead-up to this fight that Torres was at “a crossroads” in his career. A former champion and P4P stalwart, Torres his something of a rough patch in his career just before the WEC folded into the UFC. At 1-2 in his last three fights heading into the Banuelos tilt, Torres knew he needed to make a big statement in his “major league” debut.
Because really, all of his exciting fights don’t mean anything anymore—most UFC fans have never seen any of them. As far as 90 percent of the North American MMA viewing audience is concerned, this is Torres’ first fight.
We know the UFC has big plans for the personable Torres, including possible world title matches and TUF coaching gigs opposite Urijah Faber. In a 135 lbs division still trying to sort itself out, Torres by virtue of his former accolades stands in a unique position to capitalize on a UFC promotional machine looking to make a star.
But only if he wins. Because in the UFC, winning is everything.
And hey, going for broke and swinging for the fences got him into trouble against Takeya Mizugaki, and arguably cost him bouts against Brian Bowles and Joseph Benavidez. When he moved to Montreal to train with Firas Zahabi at Tristar Gym, we knew it was to tighten his game and receive the world class coaching that GSP has made such good use of.
Well folks, you asked for it—you got it. Torres looked tepid, cautious and afraid to exchange. He fought a points oriented game from bell to bell, a first for Torres as far as I recall. He got the "W" and kept his door of possibilities open, not to mention his ranking in the bantamweight division.
He also received the disapproving boos of 15,000 people in Las Vegas, not to mention what I’m guessing will be a lukewarm reaction from the PPV viewing audience at large. Once one of the most exciting fighters in the game, Torres felt full well the pressure of the “what have you done lately?” Ultimate Fighting Championships, and a new fighter was the result.
So don’t complain, folks. After all, the best fighting the best is what this is all about, right? And Miguel Torres is certainly one of the best 135-lb fighters in the world.
It remains to be seen if he’s still one of the most exciting.